Compulsory Organ Donation

Let’s talk about compulsory organ donation.
I would like to know what I am missing, because I am most confused.

In Australia, you must go through an application process to become an organ donor. And even then, once you die it is ultimately up to your next to kin to decide whether or not to donate your organs. They can veto your decision to be a donor.

In some countries it is the other way around – you are assumed to be a donor unless you go through an application process to opt-out. Some have argued that we should have a similar opt-out system. But I would go even further: Organ donation should be compulsory. It is in the only rational option. It is so absurd to me that I live in a world where people regularly decide on a whim to let others die, and everyone acts like its totally fine – it is just their personal decision, like which hat to wear that day.

Let’s start with: Why would the next of kin ever have any input on whether or not to donate your organs? Here we have a literal life-or-death situation involving complex medical considerations, and we put that decision in the hands of an uninformed lay-person who is experiencing extreme emotional distress. That is the worst possible combination of traits to have when making a life-or-death decision. Don’t look to the uninformed and distraught for guidance! Their input is worse than useless. If you ask someone, “why can’t we save this person’s life?” and their response is, “I don’t know / I don’t want to think about it / I’m too upset to talk right now / It just seems wrong / it is traditional / It seems icky”, then they have just proven they are unfit to answer the question.

Under what circumstances would anyone decide to not donate organs?

  • They don’t realise that it could save lives: In which case they are an idiot and we can ignore their input.
  • They don’t care that it could save lives: In which case they are sociopathic and we can ignore their input.

I can think of no legitimate reason anyone could have for refusing to donate good organs.

If you say that people have some kind of inalienable right for their corpse to remain intact… What? Why? There is literally no downside to donating your organs. Why would you want to lock away useful, life-saving objects just because they are your “property”? If you want to destroy them just because they are yours to destroy, then clearly you are a selfish jerk and we shouldn’t be putting you in charge of anything this important. Even your ordinary property and possessions are usually given to loved ones after death. And that is because you don’t need your car or your house anymore when you are dead, because you are dead.

And if you say, “what about religious reasons?” I will remind you that where a religious instruction involves physical harm and death of innocent bystanders is exactly the place where “religious freedom” should stop. If a religion commanded that its followers ignore speed limits in residential areas and school zones, and always put the pedal to the metal, then we would rightly not tolerate that behaviour because it endangers people’s lives (including people who aren’t even members of that religion). The edict, “workers on the sabbath day must be stoned to death,” is not an innocent cultural quirk, it is a form of criminal violence. Similarly, I cannot see how refusing to donate organs could be seen as anything other than manslaughter through criminal negligence.

As far as I can tell, organ donation should be compulsory because anyone who would choose not to do it could only be choosing based on terrible reasons. Maybe your organs aren’t yours to keep. Why should they be?

But I am open minded on this. In fact, I am almost certain that I must be missing something. This state of affairs is so perplexing. I am fascinated to hear if there is a legitimate reason to refuse to donate organs. If you can think of any, please let me know.


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